Ellis Street Auto Repair
and Andrew Dyer
Nostalgia: that pleasant feeling that takes you on a journey in your mind; like going on holiday without going anywhere. That’s how I feel at Ellis Street Autos.
Owner, Andrew Dyer has a spacious workshop, part of which he has dedicated to old stuff, petrol bowsers, an old reel lawn mower, gas cans and posters for famous brands like Lucas and Dunlop. But what brings a wry smile to my face is that items are in a working environment and look if, at any time, they might be pressed into service. The real work is done a bit further back, and amongst modern vehicles invariably there is a classic or two. If you’re willing to indulge the fantasy it’s was easy to imagine that you’re in England at a time when the Beatles were still unknown teenagers from Liverpool, British Airways was BOAC and British cars were a source of national pride.
Andrew Dyer didn’t set out to make Ellis Street Autos, the ‘go to’ place for mature vehicles, but he seldom turns away work, and along with his three mechanics he enjoys older vehicles.
Andrew was ‘not quite’ a bad boy. His father was an Anglican minister and so are all his three brothers. You would expect him to be angelic. He never got into serious trouble but he’s not one to apply himself to things that didn’t interest him, and that tested the patience of his teachers. On completing the sixth form at Waimea College his English teacher said:
“Dyer, what are you doing next year?”
“I’ve got a job.”
“Good, because you’re not coming back”
His first job was at Vining and Scott (taken over by Bowaters, about four decades ago) as an apprentice mechanic. That job lasted less than a year. The arrival of Japanese vehicles in the mid-1970s, saw a revolution in the motor trade. Because they were so much more reliable than the British cars, mechanics were laid off and repair-shops closed down. Just as he was getting started, Andrew along with scores of others was tipped out of the trade.
He went back to school to pass some subjects he’ failed, but to the relief of the English teacher, not at Waimea College, but at Tapawera Area School. At Tapawera he was as unsuccessful as he had been at Waimea.
He spent the next seven years working on farms, married an Australian, and eventually moved to Brisbane, where he found his way back to what was originally intended; fixing cars.
After two years Andrew, his wife and two children returned to Tapawera. He worked briefly at Tapawera Mechanical, before taking up a job at MS Ford. Concurrently he worked at the Polytech setting up equipment for mechanics tutors. It was a flexible arrangement that suited MS Ford and the tutors. Andrew would move between his two employers depending on their respective demands. Alas, when the ‘powers that be’ at the Polytech became aware of this unorthodox arrangement, they put an end to it.
In 2003 he started work for Dave Gibbons in Brightwater, and in 2006 bought the vehicle servicing part of the business, leaving Dave to focus on heavy machinery.
There is no master plan at Ellis Street Automotive. As ever, Andrew does what interests him. Fortunately that is tackling many and varied challenges, and making sure that his customers are kept informed at every step. For a kid that didn’t fit in at school, he is a great educator, cutting through the shroud of complexity that, for most people, makes them give up trying to understand their car. When he is unsure, he has no problem sharing this, but without fuss perseveres until a solution is found. That’s called humility.
Communication is key to Andrew having won a loyal following. His business is of a size that he has time to spend with customers, yet he is still hands on doing the work that he loves. His second wife, Maree and office lady, Beth, take care of the paperwork.
Andrew told me that beneath the plastic cowlings of modern vehicles lies a power unit which is fundamentally the same as it was 100 years ago. This is, however, changing and he and his crew are embracing the change. One of his mechanics recently returned from a training course on Hybrids.
Fully electric cars will, however, become the norm. Now there’s a revolution. The Nissan Leaf has been judged the most reliable car on the road. Not bad for a new innovation. We are on the cusp of another upheaval in the motor trade.
As Andrew has benefitted from his mentors, he sets out to pass on skills to the those coming up. Not because it is advantageous but because he wants to nurture the next generation. There’s always an apprentice on the pay role and he usually employs a young lad after school, something that was once common but, with the abolishment of youth rates, is now rare.
I once had a dentist who I enjoyed so much that I looked forward to my appointments. Since discovering Ellis Street Auto, I now feel the same way when I have motoring problems.